Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.

Community Voices is generously supported by The Minneapolis Foundation; learn why.

South Dakota dreaming: Using greed for motivation

Most mornings, I’m getting my news from various websites while the dulcet tones of Sponge Bob entertain my kids in the background. A few weeks ago, though, I had some tasks to finish.

Most mornings, I’m getting my news from various websites while the dulcet tones of Sponge Bob entertain my kids in the background. A few weeks ago, though, I had some tasks to finish. This gave me a chance to listen to the various radio morning shows. As I was flipping through the stations, I heard something jaw dropping, and it wasn’t from any of the announcers. I heard an advertisement geared toward business owners, CEOs and corporate board members to abandon the business hellscape that is Minnesota and run for the great business culture and high quality of life that is Sioux Falls, S.D.

The basic sell of the ad was since we get taxed so much in Minnesota, most companies, and their upper management, could save tons of money in the no state corporate- or personal-income-tax haven that is Sioux Falls. This wasn’t some feel-good, generic promotion of a community’s business outlook (Duluth, looking towards the future!), nor was it a plea for companies looking to expand to consider a specific community for future growth.

This was a “your business is being killed by merely being in Minnesota” scare job, and the only hope of salvation is to relocate to southeastern South Dakota. I wondered if there is any other community outside of Minnesota that would allow a commercial like this to air, and how could any Minnesota radio station allow an advertiser to insult its community as much as this ad does? It was a mud-slinging political ad, trying to get you to vote for South Dakota.

I can understand that a company moving to Sioux Falls might eventually make more money, but unless it’s a small payroll and the company’s product is primarily delivered or created online, it would take years to recoup the costs of the move alone. If it’s any kind of manufacturing company, floor layouts and transfer of machinery would cost you.

What about the employees?
Then comes the question of employees. Would a company spend the money to relocate their employees — or leave them behind in a cloud of dust, forcing the business to train new employees? Websites, letterhead, business cards and numerous other auxiliary expenses would add to the losses. Then there’s the fact that you’re in Sioux Falls. Your supplies will likely cost more to get there, and your shipping costs will likely grow too. In this economic climate, a reckless business decision like unnecessary relocation could bankrupt a company.

Then there was the claim that “life is better in Sioux Falls.” Communities like Sioux Falls can be very nice, for a while. A community might have a few neat features, making the first six months fun, but it wouldn’t be too long before many weekends are spent driving somewhere else. None of the mid-size towns in the upper Midwest has one-tenth the features of the Twin Cities.

In Sioux Falls, unless you’re a fan of the community theater or local college team, enjoying a great drama or going to a pro game means having to pay the extra expenses of hotel and travel. Restaurants in these smaller towns can be great, but forget about variety, and just a warning: Most of your vegetables will be deep fried and served with ranch sauce. If you like pheasant hunting, they have us there, but communities should be evaluated on their own merits. To suggest life in Sioux Falls will somehow make all your employees forget about the quality of life and variety of options they were used to in the Twin Cities is a joke.

The real motivation
If this advertisement persuades a company to move, let’s not disguise the real motivation of a company’s owner, CEO and upper management; greed. These people would damage a community that’s stood by them for many years and put an undue amount of strain on their employees just so they wouldn’t have to pay income tax. These business leaders’ reckless choices would not be admirable, but rather despicable.

There is also a real tragedy from the South Dakota side. As South Dakota does everything to turn its no taxes policy into a carrot guiding a mule, the state is woefully underfunded and ill prepared to deal with emergency situations, like the loss of power and water after an ice storm at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation earlier this year. It took South Dakota a month to even get basic amenities fixed. A major national fundraiser was needed. I’d guess since relocated business owners and CEOs have all that extra cash, they could use it to make a fire if a similar crisis hits their neighborhood.

I would like to award Sioux Falls, S.D., and any business that has relocated because of the advertisement the Gordon Gekko Lifetime Achievement Award for Greed. If I find out that a Minnesota company took South Dakota up on this offer, I’ll never use its product again. Instead I’ll find a local company that is willing to put up with Minnesota taxes and reap the benefits those taxes create in the quality of life in Minnesota. And I’ll know that my state will have the funds to help its citizens if there is ever a major crisis.

Matthew McNeil is the 6 p.m. weeknight host on AM 950, KTNF.